Istanbul attack has led to unprecedented last-minute demand for holidays in Spain

beach.1The terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk airport on June 28 which killed 41 people and injured 239 has caused travellers to cancel their holiday plans in Turkey and head to Spain at the last minute.

Just in the first two months of this year, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt lost 870,000 foreign tourists and Spain gained 799,900 – a drop of 19% for the first three collectively and a rise of 12.5% for Spain, according to a report by Exceltur.

Now, following the latest attack – the seventh so far in Turkey in 2016, most of which have been in the capital, Ankara and in Istanbul – Spain has seen a flood of bookings.

Exceltur says those seeking warmer weather, the beach and a swimming pool are normally guided by budget and safety – and although these three countries soared in popularity a decade ago at Spain’s expense, being able to undercut the Spanish market, holidaymakers are now flocking back as they perceive Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia to be unsafe.

In March and April, a total of 10.9 million visitors travelled to Spain, a rise of 13.4%, but with summer having just started, the numbers are expected to rocket.

This should be great news for Spain in terms of its economy and temporarily ward off any worries of a knock-on recession following the Brexit vote, as well as providing much-needed jobs for the next three months or so.

But hotels, holiday camps and apartments are already full to bursting, leaving the industry worrying about where they will put all the new arrivals.

The French market has already increased in the last five years to unprecedented levels – partly because, as a nation, they are beginning to travel outside France more, but largely because Tunisia was such a popular beach destination until now because of the language in common.

For Brits, Tunisia was also popular, as was Turkey and the beach-and-pool resorts around Sharm El-Sheikh on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, whilst Germans tended to flock to Turkey and Russians and Italians to Turkey and Egypt, Exceltur says.

“Terrorist attacks tend to lead to cancellations of holidays planned for the next 20 days on average,” according to Exceltur.

“But in the case of Spaniards heading to Turkey, the market has been totally wiped out – they are no longer going there.”

Some of Spain’s forthcoming full-to-bursting problem with the last-minute tourist influx is because package deals advertised and sold elsewhere in Europe, especially in the UK, focus on very specific areas of coast.

The Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, the Costa del Sol and Benidorm, and to a lesser extent, Mojácar in Almería, are usually packed, whilst other parts of the Alicante province coast less so, except by second home owners.

Spanish tourists are often the only ones seen in thriving beach towns in the province of Valencia such as Gandia, Tavernes de la Valldigna and Cullera, or in that of Castellón, in Benicàssim, Peñíscola and Oropesa del Mar.

Few holidaymakers from the UK would think to head to these areas, or to the coasts of Tarragona, Cádiz, Huelva, Murcia or Granada – even though they offer excellent facilities and are very geared up to beach tourism, and it is practically guaranteed that they will not be overrun with British pubs and fish and chip shops.

Many are also cheaper as destinations because they are relatively unknown, and some are within easy reach by public transport of the nearest airports.

Holidaymakers who are not concerned about being near a beach but want access to an on-site swimming pool will equally find great deals in inland areas, in hotel complexes – and these are less likely to be full because of their inhabitants flocking to the coast.

Those who like the beach but find southern and Mediterranean Spain too hot will find the perfect solution on the coasts of Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia and the Basque Country.

Most of these destinations are unlikely to be found in travel agencies outside of Spain, however, but hotel and accommodation websites will normally produce a long list of quality, affordable offers.

Published Think Spain 10July 2016

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